Country Music Hall of Fame Unveils Tom Petty Display

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photo courtesy of Country Music Hall of Fame

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum unveiled a Tom Petty display highlighting how his southern roots shaped his music and his continued influence on new generations of country music artists. Tom Petty: Where I Come From features several western-themed artifacts from Petty’s wide-ranging and generation-defining career. The display is included with museum admission and runs through summer 2025.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Petty believed his music straddled the American South, where he grew up, and Southern California, where he resided from 1974 until his death in 2017. Petty cited country-rock bands the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and other Los Angeles-based groups as major inspirations for his music. Petty’s exhibit display supplements the museum’s current major exhibition, Western Edge: The Roots and Reverberations of Los Angeles Country-Rock, presented by City National Bank.

Petty’s affinity for country music is evident in his 1985 album with the Heartbreakers, Southern Accents, which emphasized his southern roots. Over his career, Petty collaborated with several Country Music Hall of Fame members, including Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, George Strait and Marty Stuart. Petty’s influence on contemporary country music inspired the soon-to-be released tribute album, Petty Country: A Country Music Celebration of Tom Petty, which includes performances by Luke Combs, Rhiannon Giddens, Chris Stapleton and others.

Among the items on display:

  • Guitar and strap – This Gretsch Roundup model 6130 was one of Petty’s favorite guitars.
  • The western motifs on the instrument and this tooled leather guitar strap brought back memories for Petty of his boyhood love for all things cowboy related. He considered the guitar too valuable to take on tour, but Petty used it in the recording studio and on NBC-
  • TV’s “Saturday Night Live” in 1989, performing “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and “Free Fallin’” with his band, the Heartbreakers.
  • Jacket – Petty wore this jacket when he performed at the Live Aid international charity concert at Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium in 1985, and throughout Petty & the
  • Heartbreakers’ Southern Accents Tour that year. Designed by his longtime tailor, Glenn Palmer, the jacket features contrasting smile pockets with arrowhead stitching and outer space-themed embroidery.
  • Stage wear – In 2007, Petty and his fellow Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench invited guitarist Tom Leadon and drummer Randall Marsh to reform Mudcrutch, the band they started in Gainesville, Florida, in 1970. On tour with the reunited group in 2008 and 2016, Petty’s stage wardrobe included his favorite vintage western shirt, made in the 1950s by H Bar C Ranchwear; pants with decorative studs and stitching, designed by Glenn Palmer; and suede ankle boots.
  • Song manuscript – The draft of handwritten lyrics by Tom Petty for the song “Southern Accents,” which became the title track of the 1985 studio album by Petty & the Heartbreakers. In 2024, Dolly Parton contributed her recording of the song and an accompanying music video to Petty Country: A Country Music Celebration of Tom Petty.

Additionally, a letter from Petty praising Byrds’ founder Chris Hillman’s contributions to country-rock is featured in the museum’s Western Edge exhibit.

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